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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 112: Heretical Cultures in England, I: Lollardy and Wycliffe

Monday 13 July 2009, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Janet Gunning, Department of English / Department of History & Welsh History, Aberystwyth University
Paper 112-aWycliffite Logic and Lucifer's Subversive School in the Moral Play of Wisdom
(Language: English)
Tamás Karáth, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest
Index terms: Education, Language and Literature - Middle English, Performance Arts - Drama, Science
Paper 112-bAuthors of Fate: Episcopal Voices in Lollard Trials
(Language: English)
Kirsti Norris, Department of History, Fordham University
Index terms: Canon Law, Ecclesiastical History, Religious Life
Paper 112-c'The Deuelis Craft': Literalism and Poetic Identity in Lollard Rhetoric
(Language: English)
Katharine Jager, Department of English, University of Houston-Downtown, Texas
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Literacy and Orality

The papers here deal with the relation of Lollardy to higher education, and the percolation through society of views emanating from learned milieux. The session encompasses both readings of Lollard texts and engagement with heresy in the trials.

Paper -a:
Scene 2 of Wisdom perverts Wisdom's school into Lucifer's logical tour de force, and introduces the notion of corrupt science. The dialogue between Lucifer and Mind reveals (1) a concern about the difference of the unlearned practice of a science and its theory, (2) an inquiry into the prelapsarian state of mind, and (3) a doubt in the inevitability of the Fall.
The playwright adopts Wycliffite doubts concerning the return to the Edenic state of mind through logic. He remains, however, ambivalent in associating academic arguments with corruption. Although Lucifer's lesson presents a parody of vain speculation, it criticizes a self-devastating scholarly attitude that, in spite of its persuasive power, sticks to the literal.

Paper -b:
Bishops in late medieval England exercised a great deal of personal judgment when assigning penances to abjured heretics. These sentences, documented in registers and more rarely in dedicated manuscripts, varied from formulaic punishments to detailed corrections tailored to the transgressions of the sinner. In this paper, I intend to explore this spectrum, analyzing potential similarities in episcopal education and background as they related to the types of penances assigned. By investigating these emerging trends, I hope to establish a model of episcopal communication and social networking that influenced the legal treatment of heresy in England.

Paper -c:
Lollards and late medieval poets both worry over the meaning and utility of vernacular language, repeatedly querying whether the work of composing and disseminating English contributes to the common good. Lollard tracts are critical of both theological and material mimesis, condemning transubstantiation, exorcism, and even artisanal production as being part of 'the deuelis craft' because they create false belief. Yet even as Langland makes self-deprecating reference to the poet as lollere, Lollards remain silent about the work of poets.
I argue that The Twelve Conclusions of 1395 presents a Lollard rhetoric of literalism that articulates - by means of its didactic content and hypotactic prose form - an ideology of language use opposed to verbal mimesis. Indeed, this rhetoric offers an implicit example alternative to poetry and its production.